An Update About Miracle Workers and Kindle Vella, 40+ Episodes Into This Experiment

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As I’m typing this post, I just finished writing episode 41 of Miracle Workers (available to read on Kindle Vella as well as on Patreon), an ongoing serial fiction with an ensemble cast of polyamorous characters. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, here’s a synopsis:

At the Division of Miracles, anything can happen, and yet it’s so hard to get anything done. That’s until an unpopular agent ends up dead at the company awards ceremony and an investigator steps in, prepared to move heaven and earth to uncover the truth. This story is set in Mirabilis, an extraplanar city that unpredictably changes shape without warning, and features an ensemble cast of complicated proto-angels, a feline archon, a masochistic ashtray, and even a pair of demon stilettos.

What a journey this story has been! I had originally promised “40+ episodes,” so there’s something truly satisfying about making good on that promise. The murder mystery plot isn’t quite solved yet, but we’re getting close. And there’s still a lot in the setting to explore past the murder mystery, as well as a lot of unresolved complications with the characters. It doesn’t feel like I’m anywhere near done writing about Mirabilis, Archon, and the polyamorous angels that inhabit them.

Writing the first draft of a book in public, 1500-2500 words at a time, has been a very interesting experience. One of the early surprises for me was discovering that there’s a television show with the same name as the story. Yikes. I had searched to make sure there was no book of the same name before setting out, but it never occurred to me that there might be a television show. Now, it’s perfectly fine, legally speaking, for multiple works of media to have the same title. But it does cause confusion sometimes for readers/viewers. And just I’d dreaded, the confusion that ensued in this case was a bit of a headache at first, and I was kicking myself for not being more savvy about TV. That’s me though. Forever behind on the pop culture references. It is what it is. It doesn’t help that there’s nothing new under the sun (although readers who have also watched the TV series tell me that my story is waaaaay different and has very little in common with it).

Instead of changing the name (which would have been a gaitn pain to do once it was launched), I just kept updating, and slowly but surely, a loyal fan base for the story has developed. Miracle Workers was originally developed as my project for Kindle Vella, a new serial program through Amazon that my editor had suggested might be a good thing for me to participate in while I was waiting for my other novels to come out. The project was plucked from a folder I maintain of story ideas (I almost wrote about about life on a space station instead). But when I announced the project, I had some Patreon followers who were interested in the story but didn’t use Amazon.

After checking the Kindle Vella terms and publishing agreement, I discovered that I could in fact simultaneously launch the episodes on Patreon for backers at Preview level and above without violating the Vella program rules. And so I did. These days, most folks are reading it on Patreon.

What It’s Been Like Being an Early Adopter for Kindle Vella

I will say that it’s been a trip writing for Kindle Vella as an early adopter. It’s frankly the first time I’ve been an early adopter in any program. I tend to be quite cautious, you see. I’m the type of person who doesn’t have the latest and greatest things — I’m always behind on tech, always a bit behind the curve, taking my time, enjoying what I have, and only upgrading once other people have been using something for a long time.

Similarly, I started daily blogging in 2016 — long after blogging had peaked. It was a bit outdated and quaint to be blogging then. It’s quite a bit sillier now for me to persist in it. But here I am.

Early adopting is strange. Lots of people think you are silly to do so. But at this point, I have seen many things get laughed at or ignored at first but later catch on. I can remember clearly that when ebooks were new that people laughed and pooh-poohed them. They’d never catch on, they said, no one would want to read electronically. But they did. They’re here to stay. And there are authors who don’t even release print versions anymore. (I’m not one; I release in both print and ebooks – here’s a link with my current published books, and if you click into an individual title, it’ll bring you to lots of places you can buy it, if you are so inclined).

And I know some people who jumped on the ebook wagon early — with lots of people telling them it was a mistake and a waste of time — who have done very well because of that decision.

Will serials take off? No idea. And I’m doubly not sure if the Vella program will gain long-term popularity. But I decided to give it a shot. At the very worst, I’m writing a book in public that I can put out later in a more traditional format (Vella’s terms allow it to eventually be published as a stand-alone).

I Wasn’t Expecting the Level of Desperation I Witnessed

So what’s happened? Well, it’s been interesting. Vella is taking a bit to take off, but I’ve been happy to reach a new platform, especially with a quirky little sci fi story with polyamorous characters. There have been times when my story was one of the most popular ones on the platform.

I will say that I was a bit taken aback by what some of the other early adopting writers said and did the first few months. There were a number of people who quit their jobs and threw a bunch of money at Vella, thinking it’d be a quick pay-off, an instant lucrative venture — only to find that like anything else that’s new, it would take time for the new platform to attract readers organically. I stumbled onto those posts, ones from people who had quit their jobs and were regretting it, and my heart ached.

In my own case, when I started daily posting in 2016 and put out my first book in 2017, I actually had a day job where I simultaneously worked overtime (long hours and a commute) for the first 6 months or so. I was doing my regular gig and writing and editing whenever I could, making sure I got a new post out on this site every day, as well as editing and preparing my first book (Poly Land).

It was exhausting work to do both at the same time. It was hard work and felt uncertain, even doing so with tested formats (a blog and books). I can’t imagine what it would have been like to quit my job outright to take a risk on an untested program. The absolute terror and desperation I would have felt.

Well, it came out in the posts I read, anxious, confessional pieces that made their way around the Vella author groups. And it was a bit eye opening. My heart ached. I wanted them to succeed. It made me determined to keep going on my story and do what I could in order to grow the platform, if I could.

The Monthly Vella Bonuses Came as a Huge Shock

But there were positive surprises as well. Amazon has provided some bonuses to the early adopting authors as well — something that came as a surprise to the entire Vella author community.

In fact, a huge number of writers rage quit the program prior to the 6-week mark, irritated that they weren’t getting many story reads — right before we learned we’d be getting these monthly bonuses. I was pleasantly surprised by mine. Amazon has been a bit mum about how long they’ll last (I think it depends on how the program does frankly as a whole), but so far it’s been a wonderful extra surprise I wasn’t at all counting on.

I immediately told all my author friends about it, how fun the platform is to write for (very, very), how surprisingly generous the bonuses turned out to be and how achievable they were. How you could write in literally any genre as part of the program (some people are even writing non-fiction serials). That people were getting bonuses even with ZERO reads. (Yes. Even with no readers, writers were getting bonuses, especially in the beginning.)

And as I recommended Vella to other authors (something I rarely do because I’m usually not this excited about an opportunity), I was surprised to find that no one I knew started writing for the program. This is including someone who naturally writes serials and stuffs them into a drawer, someone who seems like an even better fit for this program than I would be.

Nine months into writing for Vella and recommending the program to authors periodically, I’m yet to have a friend take me up on it, although two of them have been telling me they’ve been “considering” it for some months now.

Such is the curse of the early adopter. It’s been very difficult to get anyone to write for Vella — you can only imagine how difficult it is to get people to read the stories on there. And yet… I’ve managed, and so have some others. Slowly but surely, the platform is growing and attracting new readers. My story has a dedicated, loyal following (I have it on good authority that my author’s notes are quite entertaining).

And at the very least, I’m proud of myself for trying something new — and thrilled I’ve reached new readers in a very different format.

Thank You to Everyone Who Has Been Reading the Story

Regardless of where you’ve been reading Miracle Workers — whether it’s been via Kindle Vella or on Patreon — thank you very much!

It has been oddly vulnerable writing what’s essentially a rough draft of a book in public with an audience. I’ve loved hearing from you about the story as I go — the folks on the Poly Land Discord server (another Patreon perk) have been especially vocal about what they think (for one thing, I was surprised by how popular Lucien has been as a character).

My plan is to continue writing this story with the weekly Sunday update for quite a while, but since it’s been 9 months, I thought it was about time I do a longer post about it. It’s been a very interesting project for me. And I’ve loved having you along for the ride.

To many more fun episodes!

Love,

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Featured Image: PD – Braided Studios ©2020